Lester ready to go after 100-pitch outing

Lester ready to go after 100-pitch outing
March 22, 2013, 5:00 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With just one start remaining after Friday's outing in a minor league game, Jon Lester got stretched out to 100 pitches and pronounced himself satisfied with his spring.     

More than anything, what manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves wanted was for Lester to re-discover his fastball command down in the strike zone and Lester seemingly accomplished that over the last month or so.     

"Absolutely,'' agreed Lester after allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins' Triple-A team. "That's the biggest thing for any pitcher, regardless of whether it's Jamie Moyer or Randy Johnson. You've got to have fastball command to get them to swing at your other pitches. Probably the next step below that has been how pleased I've been with my curveball and the adjustment from that. I've been able to throw it for strikes, I've been able to throw it for balls and get swings. That's another big pitch for me, to get people off the cutter.''     

Lester fanned seven yesterday, but isn't about to obsess over strikeout totals, even after his strikeout ratio declined last season for the third straight year.     

"Really, there's times when it's appropriate to go after strikeouts,'' said Lester, "but I don't care if I strike out one guys this year as long as I'm getting ground balls and getting outs. Strikeouts, for me, is one of those stats that kind of make it look cool. It's fun to strike out guys, but it's also a lot of pitches.
     
"Like today, I threw a lot more pitches (100) than I did last time because I struck some more guys out, got deeper into some counts, got more foul balls. I would rather have them just hit ground balls to the infield, let them have fun and go nine. That would be a lot easier.
     
"Just because you strike a bunch of guys out doesn't mean you're a good pitcher. I think you can have good seasons without a lot of strikeouts. In '08, I didn't stirke a lot of guys out, but I had a good season, won some games, was able to get some contact and still threw 200 innings. I feel like strikeouts, sometimes, they put too much emphasis on that to determine how a pitcher is. It's fun to strike guys out. It's awesome. But at the same time, I would rather go nine innings and strike two guys out or no guys then go five innings and strike 10 out. It saves your bullpen, saves all that stuff. I like going nine more than five with a bunch of K's.''
     
Lester has only thrown once to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but expects they'll be matched up most of the time when the season begin even though he often was paired with either Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Lavarnway in the second half of last year.
     
"Salty's the starting catcher, isn't he?'' asked Lester. "I would imagine it's probably Salty. I think that's up to John Farrell. When it comes down to that stuff, I would imagine if Salty's the guy we're going with, he's the guy who would catch me.
     
"With Bobby [Valentine] last year, I think he kind of read into a lot of stuff, as far as . . . I know [Kelly] Shoppach and [Clay Buchholz] got into a pretty good run together. It just matched up where Shop was catching against a lefty and I had a good start, he would try to match us back up. So I don't know how John's going to do it. But like I said, I would imagine if Salty's the No. 1, then that'll be the guy.''